Better late than never on Tom Brady
By Bob Halloran
Special to Page 2

Even a fool can recognize that Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is an amazing talent. I know this to be true because I recently recognized him as an amazing talent. And while I may have been "less right" than usual in my original judgment -- some would even say I was flat out wrong -- I take solace in the fact that I am not alone in my sluggish acknowledgement of his greatness and his potential greatness. A college backup and a sixth-round draft pick, Brady was overlooked more than Mini Me during an NBA pick-up game.

Tom Brady
Go ahead, take a chance on someone. He could be the next Tom Brady.
But Tom Brady serves as a lesson to us all. And it's not a lesson about perseverance, never giving up hope, or working hard to achieve your dreams. That's all crap!

What Brady teaches us as much as anything is that there are no upsets in sports.

There are no surprises. There is only "bad analysis." There are misjudgments. And there are misguided expectations. The so-called and self-proclaimed experts create a wave of one-sided public opinion by telling us that Pittsburgh is the best team in the AFC, or that small market teams such as the Twins can't compete, or that Mike Tyson would crush Buster Douglas. So when our imaginations conflict with reality, we call it an upset.

But if there was an overwhelming amount of analysis that suggested Pittsburgh's pass defense is weak, or that the Twins have the best talent in the Central Division, or that the fall of Tyson would be as swift as his rise, then the eventual turn of events wouldn't have been surprising. Betting odds are simply a way of measuring public opinion. Sixth-round draft picks who become Super Bowl MVPs, or Hall of Famers who were cut from their first team (Johnny Unitas), or first-round draft picks who bust wouldn't be nearly as surprising if original observations had been more accurate.

That's why Tom Brady should be opening more doors than a limo driver. But the door in this case should double as a window of opportunity. Now that we've found Brady in much the same way that Kurt Warner was discovered, shouldn't Washington at least consider going with Patrick Ramsey? Now that we've witnessed Tracy McGrady taken immediately after Adonal Foyle, or Jose Theodore getting his first NHL job as a backup to Jocelyn Thibault, shouldn't there be a lot more risk-taking in professional sports? Shouldn't coaches and GMs trust their eyes more than press clippings?

Brady can't be the only guy the experts were completely off the mark about. Brett Favre was an outcast. Ahman Green was traded away. Priest Holmes was released. Every one of these mistakes should be an opportunity for a guy such as the Cowboys' Troy Hambrick. Lamar Gordon should be looking to Brady for inspiration. He's Marshall Faulk's backup -- for now. Eventually, even Faulk will hear footsteps, and they'll be the footsteps of someone gaining on him and catching him from behind.

But if Brady is opening doors, it's important to note that the door swings both ways. Certainly, it smacked Drew Bledsoe in the rear on his way out of town, just like it did to Wally Pipp when he had the misfortune of getting hurt while Lou Gehrig was waiting to walk through the door.

Sometimes it's time to move over, big dog. The little dog is movin' in. That means you, Mark Grace. How long are we going to have to wait before Erubiel Durazo gets to play every day? Remember how long we had to wait to see Shaun Alexander take over for Ricky Watters in Seattle?

If aging veterans won't step aside gracefully, they should be shoved aside. Make room for the new blood, old man! Sure you've got experience. Why don't you tell me about it while I run by you? By the way, I feel the same way about aging -- and I mean aged -- broadcasters. I think they're called "veteran" broadcasters, because they actually served in the Civil War. You know which ones have lost their fastballs, yet there they are, still calling the games for your local teams after 40 years. It's nice in a lot of ways, and in a lot of other ways, they're just standing in the way of some young kid trying to embark upon a broadcast career. A young kid willing to work harder, put in more hours, and who can remember the little things, like the players' names and how many outs there are. There's a lot of talent out there, much of it untapped like an Amish fraternity keg. Is there a young second baseman ready to take over Robbie Alomar's job? God, there must be a young shortstop who can put Barry Larkin out of his misery! Will Deuce McCallister's career be superior to Ricky Williams'? Is Clinton Portis the best running back in Denver, or not? If he is, just give him the damn ball.

It's not loyalty that makes coaches stick with veteran players, it's extreme caution. It's the fear of the unknown. Even genius Bill Belichick believed Brady was the best quarterback coming out of training camp last year. But he went with the known commodity until injury produced an opportunity. Brady made the most of it, much like Kelly Holcomb did for two weeks in Cleveland. But Holcomb's back on the bench while somebody we've all heard of reclaimed his job.

All I know is, if I were looking for the next great player in any sport, I'd be looking in a little place called Nowhere because that's where a lot of the best players seem to come from. But you can't get to Nowhere by taking the safe road. And unfortunately, nobody ever goes there to find the "untouted" or the never "ballyhooed," unless they have Nowhere else to turn.

Bob Halloran is an anchorman for ESPNEWS.





NEVER TOO LATE

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